Bishop McElroy: Attacks on Father James Martin expose a cancer within the U.S. Catholic Church

Photos: iStock, composite: America Media Photos: iStock, composite: America Media

Father James Martin is a distinguished Jesuit author who has spent his life building bridges within the Catholic Church and between the church and the wider world. He has been particularly effective in bringing the Gospel message to the millennial generation. When we survey the vast gulf that exists between young adults and the church in the United States, it is clear that there could be no more compelling missionary outreach for the future of Catholicism than the terrain that Father Martin has passionately and eloquently pursued over the past two decades. There are few evangelizers who have engaged that terrain with more heart and skill and devotion.

Last year Father Martin undertook a particularly perilous project in this work of evangelization: building bridges between the church and the L.G.B.T. community in the United States. He entered it knowing that the theological issues pertaining to homosexuality constituted perhaps the most volatile element of ecclesial life in U.S. culture.

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It was this very volatility that spurred Father Martin to write his new book Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the L.G.B.T. Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity. Using a methodology that is fully consonant with Catholic teaching, employing Scripture, the rich pastoral heritage of the church and an unadulterated realism that makes clear both the difficulty and the imperative for establishing deeper dialogue, Father Martin opens a door for proclaiming that Jesus Christ and his church seek to embrace fully and immediately men and women in the L.G.B.T. community.

Jesus Christ and his church seek to embrace fully and immediately men and women in the L.G.B.T. community.

Building a Bridge is a serious book, and any such work invites substantive criticism and dialogue. This is particularly true with a complex subject like the relationship of the L.G.B.T. community and the church. Many analyses of Father Martin’s arguments have pointed to important problems that do not have easy answers and to the reality that dialogue must always proceed both in respect and in truth.

But alongside this legitimate and substantive criticism of Father Martin’s book, there has arisen both in Catholic journals and on social media a campaign to vilify Father Martin, to distort his work, to label him heterodox, to assassinate his personal character and to annihilate both the ideas and the dialogue that he has initiated.

This campaign of distortion must be challenged and exposed for what it is—not primarily for Father Martin’s sake but because this cancer of vilification is seeping into the institutional life of the church. Already, several major institutions have canceled Father Martin as a speaker. Faced with intense external pressures, these institutions have bought peace, but in doing so they have acceded to and reinforced a tactic and objectives that are deeply injurious to Catholic culture in the United States and to the church’s pastoral care for members of the L.G.B.T. communities.

There has arisen both in Catholic journals and on social media a campaign to vilify Father Martin.

The concerted attack on Father Martin’s work has been driven by three impulses: homophobia, a distortion of fundamental Catholic moral theology and a veiled attack on Pope Francis and his campaign against judgmentalism in the church.

The attacks on Building a Bridge tap into long-standing bigotry within the church and U.S. culture against members of the L.G.B.T. community. The persons launching these attacks portray the reconciliation of the church and the L.G.B.T. community not as a worthy goal but as a grave cultural, religious and familial threat. Gay sexual activity is seen not as one sin among others but as uniquely debased to the point that L.G.B.T. persons are to be effectively excluded from the family of the church. Pejorative language and labels are deployed regularly and strategically. The complex issues of sexual orientation and its discernment in the life of the individual are dismissed and ridiculed.

[Related: Cardinal Sarah offers critique of L.G.B.T. book, Father James Martin responds]

 

The coordinated attack on Building a Bridge must be a wake-up call for the Catholic community to look inward and purge itself of bigotry against the L.G.B.T. community. If we do not, we will build a gulf between the church and L.G.B.T. men and women and their families. Even more important, we will build an increasing gulf between the church and our God.

The attacks on ‘Building a Bridge’ tap into long-standing bigotry within the church and U.S. culture against members of the L.G.B.T. community. 

The second corrosive impulse of the campaign against Building a Bridge flows from a distortion of Catholic moral theology. The goal of the Catholic moral life is to pattern our lives after that of Jesus Christ. We must model our interior and exterior selves on the virtues of faith, love, hope, mercy, compassion, integrity, sacrifice, prayerfulness, humility, prudence and more. One of these virtues is chastity. Chastity is a very important virtue of the Christian moral life. The disciple is obligated to confine genital sexual activity to marriage.

But chastity is not the central virtue in the Christian moral life. Our central call is to love the Lord our God with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Many times, our discussions in the life of the church suggest that chastity has a singularly powerful role in determining our moral character or our relationship with God. It does not.

Our discussions in the life of the church suggest that chastity has a singularly powerful role in determining our relationship with God. It does not.

This distortion of our faith cripples many of our discussions of sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular. The overwhelming prism through which we should look at our moral lives is that we are all called to live out the virtues of Christ; we all succeed magnificently at some and fail at others. Those who emphasize the incompatibility of gay men or lesbian women living meaningfully within the church are ignoring the multidimensional nature of the Christian life of virtue or the sinfulness of us all or both.

The third impulse behind the campaign against Building a Bridge arises from a rejection of the pastoral theology that Pope Francis has brought into the heart of the church. Regarding the issue of homosexuality, in particular, many of those attacking Father Martin simply cannot forgive the Holy Father for uttering that historic phrase on the plane: “Who am I to judge?” The controversy over Building a Bridge is really a debate about whether we are willing to banish judgmentalism from the life of the church. Pope Francis continually reminds us that the Lord unceasingly called the disciples to reject the temptation to judge others, precisely because it is a sin so easy for us all to fall into and one so injurious to the life of the church.

The gulf between the L.G.B.T. community and the church is not primarily based on orientation; it is a gulf created by judgmentalism on both sides. That is the real starting point for a dialogue between the Catholic Church and the L.G.B.T. community in the United States today. Father Martin should be thanked for pointing to this reality, not shunned.

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Beth Cioffoletti
2 months ago

"Pure of heart" means "chaste"?

JW Russell
2 months ago

Here is what the Catechism says:
2532 Purification of the heart demands prayer, the practice of chastity, purity of intention and of vision.
Without chastity, there is no purity of heart. Without purity of heart, we will not see God.
Pretty straightforward....

Robert Lewis
2 months ago

Do you know that sexual commerce between married couples for any other reason than procreation was once called "unchaste"? Are you aware that the Early Church prioritized the life of the celibate way over that of the married man or woman, and that THAT was called perfect "chastity"? Are you aware that the modern Church now teaches that "chastity" within the monogamous heterosexual marriage may now include as much sexual commerce between the couple as they wish, so long as neither uses the other's body purely for pleasure? What else is "chastity" other than being self-sacrificial in one's sexual behavior? And, if THAT is what "chastity" is, why does the Church insist that two monogamous people of the same sex may not have their sexual transactions be coloured by that quality? Of course, it may not be a Catholic sacramental marriage, for reasons having to do with the nature of indissoluble Catholic marriage, which mirrors the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, for his Bride, the Church, but it certainly may be a minor sin, and it certainly may not be anything "crying out" for God's wrath. Whether it is "mortal sin" may depend entirely upon the context, and be best left to the confessor to assess.

JW Russell
2 months ago

Aaaand...there it is--the unabashed attempt to justify open dissent from the truth about chastity, purity of heart, and God's plan for the human person. Here is the actual correct definition of chastity:

2337 Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man's belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.

That *also* is the correct definition of "sexuality"--a singular noun, not plural. There aren't "sexualities"--there is only "sexuality"--and it's ordered toward the conjugal love of a man and a woman (see CCC 2360).

Reyanna Rice
2 months ago

When Jesus used the expression "pure of heart" it is not exactly regarding sexual purity but has more to do with devotedness to God than it does sex.

JW Russell
2 months ago

And yet that is not what the Church teaches us. There is no purity of heart without sexual purity (chastity).

Beth Cioffoletti
2 months ago

If chastity is so important (and central) to purity of heart, I wonder why Jesus didn't mention it?

JW Russell
2 months ago

You mean, like in Mt 5:28?
"But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

Mark Herlihy
2 months ago

Great article, but I would go further. Other clerics who now feel free to tag Fr. Martin with the execrable coinage "homosexualist" should be subjected to discipline. Use of this made-up term as an appellation for him is not merely scandalous and uncharitable, but little short of defamatory.

Christopher Lochner
2 months ago

Watch out. The thought police are online.

Don Campbell
2 months ago

Sort of like the other side's use of the word "homophobe" to slander anyone who disagrees with them?

Joseph Jaglowicz
1 month 4 weeks ago

According to an online dictionary, the word 'homophobe' means "a person who fears or hates homosexuals." The suffix 'phobe', of course, means 'fear'. According to a former cathedral pastor of mine years ago, most moralists think that FEAR is the root cause of most sin. It makes sense. We FEAR what or whom we don't know. People commanded by FEAR tend to "circle the wagons" against perceived enemies (even though we love our enemies --- right???).

Sue Harvey
2 months ago

May I say my mom came back to Catholicism. She was married, divorced and remarried outside of church. It was the kindness, nonjudgment and friendship of several priests and nuns that made her want to "come home" and live in the communion of saints again.
I don't think she would have given it a thought she was missing anything if she'd only been given the cold shoulder and shunning.

Rick Cortright
2 months ago

You are correct! The pejorative language and labels must stop. But loving God and our neighbor must always require chastity Bishop McElroy. Those three commandments are not mutually exclusive as you have suggested. Yes, we can fall, reconcile and return to the father but we cannot love Him and reject chastity as an accepted practice. For that reason, you and Fr. Martin have a responsibility to teach just that! And you are both failing to do it effectively as demonstrated by your writings here.

Of course reconciliation is crucial! but implicitly that cannot be achieved without sharing the good news or without rec·og·ni·tion of Church teaching. Living a chaste life is not secondary to other commandments nor is it a suggestion. To propose that chastity is somehow of lesser importance to love of God rather than a requirement to loving God is a lie!

Bill Freeman
2 months ago

"Living a chaste life is not secondary to other commandments nor is it a suggestion. To propose that chastity is somehow of lesser importance to love of God rather than a requirement to loving God is a lie!"

What is the obsession with pelvic issues? It certainly wasn't for Jesus. He had nothing to say about homosexuality, little about adultery, but a heck of a lot about hardheartedness and judgment.

Robert Lewis
2 months ago

I don't think you have any idea of the history of the term "chastity," nor of its historically contextualized meaning. It is not "celibacy."

Bill Freeman
2 months ago

The issue here is much bigger than the relationship beween the Roman Catholic Church and gays and lesbians. Fr. Martin had a 2016 scheduled talk at Theological College at Catholic University, to be given this year, recently canceled. The event was canceled by Rev. Gerry McBreaity, the TCS Rector. There was a great article in NCR. I wish to share my response here:

I know Fr. Gerry McBrearity from my seminary days at St. Mary's Seminary & University in Baltimore. Theological College (TC) at CUA is a Sulpician seminary. Just last year and due to the overreach of San Francisco Archbishop Sal Cordileone, the Sulpicians were discharged from St. Patrick's Seminary & University at Menlo Park, CA after leading the seminary for 118 years. They officially left at the end of the May 2017 academic year. Cordileone ran them out. See the related NCR article: https://www.ncronline.org/news/people/sulpicians-withdraw-san-francisco…

I am certain that McBrearity, TC, and the Sulpicians did not want the same thing to happen at CUA. They caved.

In the age of Francis, this is so tragic. The more things change, the more they stay the same. I don't see how the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. and Europe is not on a collision course.

Gerry, where is the Sulpician prophetic voice? Where is the accompanying spirit of Pope Francis? What message are you giving to your gay seminarians?

Don Campbell
2 months ago

They should not have any gay seminarians. Pope Benedict decreed that no man with strong homosexual tendencies should be ordained. This was done in response to the findings (John Jay study, and elsewhere) that the vast majority (80%+) of sexual abuse cases involved homosexual priests preying on pubescent and post-pubescent boys. Most seminaries now do psychological testing to weed them out on the front end. Pope Francis recently issued new regulations for seminaries that retain this prohibition.

Bill Freeman
2 months ago

You clearly do not understand the findings of the John Jay student. It was not due to homosexuality. But I am not going to debate you. There is able information on the conclusions that you can read.

Sam Flenner
2 months ago

Why is their doubt about Catholic teaching that homosexuality is "improper conduct" and leads to "dishonorable passions"?

In Romans 1, Paul attributes the homosexual desires of some to a refusal to acknowledge and worship God. He says, "For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. . . . Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them" (Rom. 1:26–28, 32).

Elsewhere Paul again warns that homosexual behavior is one of the sins that will deprive one of heaven: "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 6:9–10, NIV).

All of Scripture teaches the unacceptability of homosexual behavior. But the rejection of this behavior is not an arbitrary prohibition. It, like other moral imperatives, is rooted in natural law—the design that God has built into human nature.

What is there not to understand?

Bill Freeman
2 months ago

Next, you will be using Sodom and Gomorrah as proof-texting.

Ellen B
2 months ago

John 8:3-10 Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. What is there not to understand?

Tim O'Leary
2 months ago

Bishop McElroy's article was full of judging those who disagree with Fr. Martin. One cannot use the word "homophobia" without being judgmental. It's in the very use of the word that that line has been crossed. As to scripture, St. John also wrote: - "Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected." 1 John 4-5.

Dolores Pap
2 months ago

I'll just say that I agree with Father Martin and his outreach program- I hope it's not too late because from what I have observed, most of the young adults I know, think that the church is irrelevant. .They are just not interested in being told what, and how to think or how to conduct their lives..

LuAnn O'Connell
2 months ago

Thank you, Bishop McElroy for reminding us that "chastity is not the central virtue in the Christian moral life. Our central call is to love the Lord our God with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Many times, our discussions in the life of the church suggest that chastity has a singularly powerful role in determining our moral character or our relationship with God. It does not." Jesus was much harder on those who judged others while sinning themselves (the Pharisees), than he ever was on anyone else. The very fact that sinners were comfortable hanging with Jesus demonstrates that he wasn't lecturing or condemning them--they knew where he stood on sin, but He didn't make them feel "less than" because of it as the church has done with certain sins, particularly certain sex-related sins. If we heed God's call to love and speak the truth in love, and grow in holiness ourselves (including taking the log out of our own eyes), we don't need to do the Holy Spirit's job which is to convict people of their sins.

Christopher Lochner
2 months ago

But there is a difference between sin as weakness which we all have and sin as a knowing disregard for others, that is, sin as a continuing way of life. And I am NOT referring to LGBTQ. As the world becomes more impersonal, sin as an acceptable non judgement will lead to disaster. Perhaps this is the log in the eye metaphor. We accept sin of those we like and agree with but not others. We're called to try to love everyone and not just select groups. A preferential love for any group is really not Christian but IS the hypocrisy the atheist accuse us of having. We know of certain groups coming to church but tend to have little concern for, say, the old woman down the street bc she is not a "cause".

Theresa Maccarone
2 months ago

"The coordinated attack on Building a Bridge must be a wake-up call for the Catholic community to look inward and purge itself of bigotry against the L.G.B.T. community. If we do not, we will build a gulf between the church and L.G.B.T. men and women and their families."

The "gulf between the church and L.G.B.T. men and women and their families" is already present in our church today. I know many non-gay family and friends who remain inactive Catholics because of the homophobic attitude in our church. I have a brother who is gay and has faithfully lived with his partner for over 15 years. Unfortunately, he is the only member in my immediate family who has left the Catholic Church.

My parents (God rest their souls) had four children. We grew up in a strict, but very loving Catholic family. My parents sacrificed much in order to send all of us to parochial school and we went to Mass every weekend as a family.

I believe that God loves my brother the same way my parents did. My mother and father constantly made it known that they loved all four of us equally. My brother and his partner were always welcomed at our dinning room table to break bread and share a meal with the family, especially during the traditional Catholic holidays such as Christmas and Easter Sunday. I've never once in all my life heard my parents verbally condemn my brother's and partner's lifestyle.

Don Campbell
2 months ago

Why is it considered off-limits and/or beyond the pale to encourage your brother to live in accordance with the Church's teaching?

Marge Banach
2 months ago

Bishop McElroy, With all due respect, I would disagree mainly on one point. While Fr. Martin is right to point out that its judgmental and bigoted to think the sin of homosexual sexual activities are graver sins, he is wrong in that he does not make very clear that all sexual activities outside of marriage between a man and a woman ARE sinful. We need to know when sin is sin and be admonished by the watchmen of the Church to avoid sin. Unfortunately, that is rarely the subject of a Sunday homily, even though there are plenty of opportunities to address this. As a mother of a son who identifies as gay, I pray for my son and welcome him home. But the last thing I want as a loving parent, is a group of Catholics championing the LGBT members of the church as rock stars and the blatant promotion of sexual relationships between them. Chaste friendships and Christian faithfulness are what ought to be promoted in these circles. There are way too many "do-gooders" who want to welcome LGBTQ persons without any regard to their spiritual peril when living in sin. Unfortunately, Fr. Martin appears to be among them. These are delicate matters to be addressed but certainly not ignored.

Kevin Murphy
2 months ago

Clerics who refuse to teach Jesus's hard truth are the real danger to the Church. Pope Francis has already "muddied the waters" on adultery and the effort to do so with sexuality is underway. Just because your name is prefaced with a clerical title does not give you leave to toss all previous teaching. Don't call us a " cancer" if we refuse to follow.

Joseph Jaglowicz
1 month 4 weeks ago

So Jesus taught the "hard truth"??? See Matthew 11:28-30 --- "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” I'm sure this divine teaching helped Christian slaves accept their subservient lot in life as confirmed by Rome, which based its approval of slavery, inter alia, on Luke 12:45-48. One is also reminded of Jesus' preference for mercy over ritual/religious obligation in Matthew 9:13 (repeated in Mt 12:7 from Hosea 6:6), to wit: "Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Francis, being obedient to Jesus' wish, is restoring the proper balance in Catholic doctrine between law and mercy, a task very similar to that found in State law that recognizes the proper balance of law and equity/fairness to ensure justice, i.e., that which is due a person.

Mr. Murphy, it appears you are the one here "toss[ing] all previous teaching" from Jesus on this matter.

Joseph Sciambra
2 months ago

“The coordinated attack on Building a Bridge must be a wake-up call for the Catholic community to look inward and purge itself of bigotry against the L.G.B.T. community.”

Dear Bishop McElroy:

Just because someone has a problem with James Martin’s book or his approach to the LGBT community, does not automatically make that person a homophobic bigot.

I was a gay advocate for 12 years – during my late-teens and all of my twenties; I was raised marginally Catholic, but abandoned what little I knew about my faith early on. For the past seven years, I outreach to the LGBT community here in San Francisco. I regularly attend the various “Pride” festivities and street fairs – I show up, not to make demands upon these people, or to lecture them, or to tell them they are going to hell; I simply show up to tell my story to anyone who will listen. Most find it remarkable that I have been chaste for 17 years.

The problem I have with Martin’s approach, which is not so much with regards to his book, but what he said subsequently: the constant insinuations that Church teachings on this matter will radically change; the pressure he is putting on those with same-sex attraction to believe “God made you this way;” and the unwillingness to speak about chastity – because, after all – “I’m not a moral theologian.”

I’m not a moral theologian either, but when I outreach to the LGBT community – I can share my story; that doesn’t take a university degree.

Should the Church “purge” itself of someone like me? Those who disagree with James Martin on this point are largely people of good heart – Cardinal Sarah, Fr. Gerald Murray, Fr. Dwight Longenecker; while there are some who resort to the worst sorts of name-calling and demonizing, the other side is not without fault in that matter; when I have written critically of things James Martin has said, I have received e-mails from his supporters calling me everything from an aged whore to a self-hateful closet case who is personally responsible for the deaths of gay men.

I understand the emotions at work, especially from those who identify as LGBT because so much is at stake here. But purging the thoughts of others from the Church is not constructive. At one time, various ideologies wanted to purge homosexuals and others who were on the margins of their society. Shouldn’t we foster discourse and dialogue in an attempt to understand those who disagree with us? Isn’t that exactly what you and James Martin want to take place between the institutional Church and the LGBT community?

Thank you:
Joseph Sciambra

Tim Brantley
2 months ago

Thank you, Joseph.

Tim O'Leary
2 months ago

Joseph - Thank you for your comment. You are a great example of true sacrificial faith. You will not receive accolades from the gay elite. You will be insulted and shunned and ridiculed. You will not be invited to dialogue by Fr. Martin or Bishop McElroy. But, you are truly suffering for the faith. You are an inspiration to me and I am sure to many. God has blessed you.

Robert Lewis
2 months ago

There is absolutely nothing in anything that Father Martin has WRITTEN that would indicate that he would not wholly sympathize and approve of the writer of the comment above. You are constantly in the business, Mr. O'Leary, of distorting everything that supporters of God's mercy and compassion, such as Father Martin, have enjoined. A true "whitened sepulcher" !

Tim O'Leary
2 months ago

Robert - you are always going off half-cocked with your comments, without doing your homework. Listen to Fr. Martin on this podcast. http://theologyindialogue.org/category/podcast/ In it, Fr. Martin goes way beyond the book.

Listen how Fr. Martin judges "former gays" (his term) who he says have "a lot of conflict going on" and "leading less-integrated lives", according to the psychiatrists he speaks to (notice the introduction of the psychiatrist to imply their mental instability). This is at the 27-28th minute of the podcast.

It seemed like an unfortunate omission that he failed to discuss the organizations Courage & Encourage, since they have been the most successful apostolate so far and have brought many people back to lives consistent with the Catholic faith. But, when i hear his comments in this podcast, I begin to doubt his openness to that response.

At minute 27, Fr. Martin states his belief that everyone is on a homo-hetero continuum " & "most of us are bisexual in some way" (which logically means that people are not really homo or hetero, gay or straight biologically, but somewhere in between, making terms gay or straight inaccurate for most, and the idea of immutability also inaccurate). Gender ideology is so all over the place.

I think Fr. Martin should reflect on his (possibly unconscious) attitude to Courage and perhaps discuss it in an interview or podcast. He could explain why he accepts Catholic doctrine and is not working for it to change.

Robert Lewis
1 month 4 weeks ago

It may surprise you to learn that I think that YOU are the one obsessed with "gender immutability." I agree with Father Martin that "gender" is basically a LEARNED PERFORMANCE, and that there is a continuum of sexual attraction, and so did the ancient and medieval Church, which had no idea of the pigeon holes called "homosexual" and "heterosexual," but thought that "homosexual" behavior was actually the behavior of perverse "heterosexuals." My opinion in this regard, however--similar, I'd guess, to Father Martin's--is that monogamy in holy matrimony is the most virtuous and chaste lifestyle--to which most "homosexuals" and "heterosexuals" fall short.
Also, I capitalized "WRITTEN," for a reason: this whole attack on this good Jesuit has grown so vitriolic and personal that it stands to reason that he'd lose his control in a podcast or a YouTube. Unlike you, I do not propose to play Inquisitor and judge the man on anything but what he has WRITTEN. You and others are conducting a highly unethical attack on him, for which you should be deeply ashamed.

Dcn Cliff Britton
2 months ago

Your Eminence... those of us who disagree with Fr. Martin's lack of balance in his writing (his book, his podcasts, his comments and, recently, his uncharitable response to the Nashville Statement) are not part of a "cancer". Fr. Martin has gathered quite a following in both Catholic and non (or anti-) Catholic circles. I would appreciate his voice more if he would give equal time and column inches to proclaiming the teaching of the Church. His opinionated writings seem to always stop short of getting to these important points.

Reyanna Rice
2 months ago

I note you address Bishop McElroy as "Your Emminence". I don't think he is a cardinal yet. "Your Excellency" is how you address a bishop, or just "Bishop".

Dcn Cliff Britton
2 months ago

Ahhh... thanks! I do my best to stay in my country parish and don't get "downtown" much. Peace!

Ellen B
2 months ago

Bishop McElroy, On behalf of the many Catholics who watch these types of attacks in dismay, thank you.

Rudolph Koser
2 months ago

Amen, Ellen. All virtues flow from the Great Commandment -- Love God with your whole heart and soul and love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than this. I think Jesus said that.

Robert Lewis
2 months ago

Thank you, Bishop, for this; it is magnificent, and it was very much needed.

Antoinette Carbone
2 months ago

Fr. Martin has inspired me throug his writings and lectures. I am a coordinator in my parish RCIA program. First we are called to love God and then to love our neighbor. No conditions attached. We are asked to come together as a community at least once a week to share in the Eucharist. We are also asked to help others. Nowhere am I expected to limit my love for my neighbor based on his or her sexual orientation. I am expected to read and learn from the New Testament, even to study the catechism of the Catholic Church as these books explain Gods love in an understanding way. To often holier than the Pope Catholics limit their love because they see what is to be judged by a certain rule. In the situation regarding fr. Martin's writing, it is the rule of sexual conduct that those who object to his message of love and compassion for the LGBT community, that hardens their heart. He was not advocating acceptance of their life style, but to extend God's love and our love to all.

Mary Reichel
2 months ago

I am not a theologian, but rather, a Catechist. We Catechists stand on the front lines, interacting with real people who spend very little time thinking about theology. As a Catechist I am longing for words I can echo that will draw the LGBT community and all those who love them toward Christ. Personally I fear even inviting an LGBT person to my church because of how insensitively they may be treated. I fear that an invitation to come to Church might result in my friends being driven further away from Christ. What do I say to a married gay couple who miss the Eucharist but refuse to betray each other by denying their marriage? What do I say to a single older gay person who dies not feel their past "homosexual acts" to be sinful? What do I say to relatives of LGBT people who ache for their LGBT loved ones to be embraced by the Church? What do I say to faithful Catholics who wish to be welcoming to LGBT people but wish to avoid becoming a target of "holier than thou" Catholics who use moral teaching not as a personal guide to Christ for voluntary discipleship, but as a whip to drive others?

Kester Ratcliff
2 months ago

Excellent response. This process will take a long time. Acknowledging the problem is a necessary and good first step.

There are 'Catholic' communities which are not really catholic. They have a few hot button cultural identity issues, and if questioned very quickly end up in overt sedevacantism and denial of basic theology, in preference for supremacist ideologies and scapegoating minorities.

Most of the flock should be called back gently, but some of the leaders leading people astray need to be shown publicly that they have cut themselves off.

Also, we need to make the distinction clearer between acceptance or denial of Natural Law ethics *in principle*, and acceptance or denial of a particular interpretation of Natural Law ethics. No Catholic can deny Natural Law ethics in principle, but the particular traditional interpretation(s) do not automatically have a moral obligatory quality just because they claim to be the one and only true version.

Each of us is responsible for our own conscience, reason and inspiration, as well as profoundly respectfully listening, i.e. 'obedience', in community.

Joe Trainor
2 months ago

Good Catholics are not the problem. Good Catholics, imitating Jesus who associated with sinners, love the sinner and hate the sin. The real tension and confusion is being caused by ambiguity on the part of the Pope as well as reluctance of many bishops to teach and hold fast to what the Church has always correctly taught.

The real problem or “cancer” is the obvious failure to teach fully and properly. To me, it provides a “false welcome” if people are allowed to believe that they don’t need to change or even try to change in order to participate fully in the life of the Church. It would not be truly compassionate of me to give an addicted neighbor money to buy alcohol or drugs. It seems reasonable that a truly compassionate Church needs to lead sinners to repentance rather than encouraging them to eat and drink damnation upon themselves by receiving Holy Communion unworthily.

Since many people are living in sin and have made it public (and even a matter of “pride”), it is now more incumbent upon the Church to teach properly, to remove false teachers, and for pastors to refuse to administer sacraments to unrepentant public sinners as some heroically do. All bishops need to get on board with the orthodox ones because the failure to teach properly and with appropriate support and guidance from the top down is another scandal from which the Church needs to extricate itself sooner rather than later. Otherwise, the cancer will lead many more souls away from salvation.

I’m not judging the intentions of the hierarchy; but I do judge the results of their neglect. Those results are intrinsically harmful to the sinner as well as to the faithful and their pastors who have vowed to uphold Church teaching. The uninformed sinner is being led to believe that anything goes and anyone in any disposition can receive Holy Communion, and that everyone must accept their continuance in sin as normal and even good.

Meanwhile, the faithful push back and beg for clarity, but are called “unwelcoming;” and even some in the hierarchy call the faithful a name coined by activists that pushed for legalization and normalization of sodomy and the right to marry which is impossible. Priests and pastors are given the added burden of explaining more and more that they cannot officiate, or allow the church property to be used, in illicit functions. From the perspective of the homosexual person, this is most likely viewed as hostile action rather than welcome. This is the result of false or incomplete teaching on salvation.

Teaching on this topic must entail what it means to be in the state of sanctifying grace, how it’s lost and the remedy to regain it. Until these points that pertain to all people are made clear to everyone concerned, there will continue to be tension while the real cancer continues to kill.
Mortal sin, whether public or private, always cuts us off the soul from the sanctifying grace. This grace enables the person to progress more and more in the quest to be holy as God is holy. After mortal sin, in order to return the soul to sanctifying grace, the penitent in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, admits the sins, turns away from sin, and makes a willful act of contrition which includes a firm resolution “to sin no more and to avoid the occasion of sin.” This is the command that Jesus gave often to those he healed, “Go and sin no more.”

The command implies that the one who receives mercy is expected to have the firm resolve to avoid sin rather than to return to it. Unfortunately, the quote, “Who am I to judge?” leaves much to be explained and is not even fully explained for the laity when Pope Francis himself gave an explanation of sorts with this, "On that occasion I said this: If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord (in tthe context of confession) and is willing, who am I to judge that person?" (NCR 1/10/2016). The well catechized Catholic, or at least one who is able to look at this from a pastoral perspective or from personal experience with Reconciliation, is likely to understand that the word “willing” must imply that the penitent is willing to change his ways, one of the requirements of Confession without which receiving absolution is impossible.
Unfortunately, the word “willing” most likely comes across as ambiguous or meaningless to those outside the Church; it totally escapes their attention. The uncatechized, homosexual person probably hears it like this, “The Pope just said it’s OK to be gay.” Whether Pope Francis intends for this to be the message or not, that is the message that many people are hearing and will continue to hear until there is clarity from the top down.

Bishops and priests have pastoral discretion which is for the good of the faithful. However, the notion of mercy requires that there be forgiveness. Yet, in many cases, there will be no forgiveness because there is no longer any sin to forgive--everybody thinks they heard the Pope say, “It’s OK to sin and continue in sin.” If the Pope won’t provide clarity, the bishops, in unison, must do so definitively. Otherwise, the sinner receives no mercy and the faithful continue to push back and are called names even in the Church for not accepting sodomy as a normal way of life.

Of course, for a bishop to speak or write with authority, he must uphold the 2000 year old Church teaching and tradition. If it is a stumbling block for any bishop or priest to teach in an orthodox manner, then he ought to resign rather than cause souls to suffer. For anyone to intentionally lead souls astray--"lead one of my [disciples] into sin”-- it might be better for him to have a great millstone tied around his neck. and be thrown into the sea (Mt 18:6 ). This is just a paraphrased reminder for false teachers.

Don Campbell
2 months ago

Thank you Joe Trainor. A good catechisis for Bishop. Hopefully he will read it and take it to heart.

Joe Trainor
2 months ago

Don, I appreciate the comment. Even though I’ve retired from parish ministry, God won’t let me stop catechizing as I prepare to go global. Anyway, my submission was not so much to teach the bishop—he has about five times more impressive degrees than my humble BA in Theology. So, I doubt that he learned doctrine from my comment. Primarily, I wanted to point out the true cancer and show how the tension that exists has been created by those who are trying to change doctrine by falsely encouraging homosexuals to continue sinful activity. I also suggested what bishops, priests and religious educators ought to do with this topic—there seems to be a lot of silence from the orthodox hierarchy which needs to unify against false teaching. And I had to push back against the name calling. In the end I did give a warning to all teachers who fail to remain orthodox in their teaching.

One devious way for the homosexual activists to undermine Church teaching and authority is through a back door approach (sorry--double entendre was not intended but it seems too appropriate to remove). The activists cannot teach false doctrine to orthodox Catholics with authority of the Church, so they teach errors to groups in the margins--those they have recruited through the false hope of acceptance of their sinful activity. Then they try to justify their statements to the orthodox Catholics by using emotion and political correctness. When that fails, a bishop resorts to name calling in an effort to stigmatize and marginalize good Catholics. (He must be following Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”).

Having worked in practically all facets of parish ministry first a as a volunteer for ten years and then on full-time staff for ten years, in which I was responsible for RE and the RCIA process (among other things), I am sensitive to issues of welcome and outreach. But if I had taught or allowed to be taught what is proposed by Fr. James Martin, I could ultimately, at the judgment, have been wishing for the necklace with the large millstone of which Jesus warned. Meanwhile, I would have been justly reprimanded and or removed by anyone of the great pastors under whom I worked. Thank God the Church still has some orthodox priests and bishops who remain faithful even though they have so much more to suffer than we have.

Another concern is that the orthodox bishops will fail to unify soon enough against the homosexual agenda, and the real cancer (giving credibility to false teaching) will metastasize for a couple of years before any universal action is taken. Eventually, the good bishops will implore the Holy See for guidance regarding the large numbers of “irregular” couples who are coming forward and receiving Holy Communion. Pope Francis or whoever is pontiff will say, “How can we stop it now? I guess we have to let them receive.” After that, of course, they will be teaching religious education and RCIA. Maybe, if we are blessed, God will just end all before that happens. Maranatha!

How do you feel about this: In addition to all the problems facing the Church, I’m concerned that a growing homosexual movement within the Church may affect civil liberty and cause erosion of our religious freedom—specifically the freedom of business people not to participate in or serve homosexual celebrations which are opposed to their conscience. However, the conscience of the business person can called into question and the person labeled as a bigot by a court of law when the business person’s own Church becomes viewed as supportive of all things homosexual.

Henry George
2 months ago

Joe,
Were that you were a Bishop !

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